Cyber and Space Weapons Are Making Nuclear Deterrence Trickier

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December 4, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: December 4 on

If you can’t trust your networks or satellite communications in a crisis, ‘use-or-lose’ scenarios get a lot closer.

Stability was an overriding concern at last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on nuclear command authority, the first in four decades. Senators wondered aloud whether one individual — the American president — should have the sole authority to direct a nuclear attack. The focus is understandable, but there are other challenges to nuclear stability that deserve more attention than they’re getting.

In particular, advances in cyberweapons and counter-space capabilities are creating new pressures on concepts of nuclear deterrence as traditionally construed. As a result, and as we outlined in a recent report, there exists a real and growing possibility of rapid and unintended escalation of any U.S.-Russia crisis or conflict.

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